Australia: Check your timesheets – in excess of $120,000 in penalties for employer who failed to keep time and wages records

Employers face increased penalties for failing to keep proper records as a result of recent changes to the Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth) through the Fair Work Amendment (Protecting Vulnerable Workers) Act 2017 (Cth).

The case of Fair Work Ombudsman v Pulis Plumbing Pty Ltd & Anor serves as a warning to employers that a failure to comply with employee records obligations not only leads to significant penalties, but means that employers are unable to disprove employee allegations about underpayments.

Fair Work Ombudsman v Pulis Plumbing Pty Ltd & Anor [2017] FCCA 3013

On 12 September 2014, an employee commenced working for Pulis Plumbing as a second year apprentice plumber. The employee was paid wages for standard hours and working between 10 to 12 hours each day.

The employee kept a record of his own hours that were used to fill in his timesheets that he provided to Pulis Plumbing. The employee was told by Michael Pulis, a director of Pulis Plumbing that he would be paid overtime separately and on two occasions he was paid cash sums of $300, and $600. From time to time when the employee asked about his overtime payments he was told that he would be fixed up the next week.

On 10 December 2014, the employee was informed that his 3 month probationary period would be completed on 12 December 2014 and his "...skills and attitude are not to second year standard..." The employee was offered another 3 month trial or the choice of terminating his employment.

During his employment the employee worked 201 hours of overtime over a 10 week period, for which he was paid only $1,831.77. This was less than the rate than he was paid for ordinary hours. The employee was also paid on the basis that he was engaged as an apprentice and not a labourer.However, Mr Pulis did not complete the registration requirements for the employee to become an apprentice and therefore, the weeks he worked with Pulis Plumbing did not count towards his apprenticeship training. Significantly, Mr Pulis had been informed over the Fair Work advice line before he hired the employee that the employee had to be hired either as a labourer or signed on formally as an apprentice.

After his employment was terminated, the employee contacted Mr Pulis a number of times via text messages requesting payment of his outstanding wages. Although promised, those payments were never made.

The Contraventions

On 8 December 2017, Judge Riethmuller of the Federal Circuit Court of Australia found that Pulis Plumbing Pty Ltd and Mr Pulis had contravened a number of civil remedy provisions under the Fair Work Act in failing to pay the employee in accordance with the Pulis Professional Plumbing Pty Ltd and CEPU – Plumbing Division (Vic) Enterprise Agreement 2011-2015. These contraventions under section 50 of the Fair Work Act, included:

  • Failing to pay the ordinary hourly rate;
  • Failure to pay the overtime rates;
  • Failing to pay the ordinary hours on a public holiday not worked;
  • Failing to pay meal allowances;
  • Failing to pay personal leave;
  • Failing to pay annual leave;
  • Failing to pay annual leave on termination;
  • Failing to pay annual leave loading on termination; and
  • Failing to pay travel allowance.

The Respondents were also found to have failed to comply with a notice to produce documents or records, as well as failing to provide payslips and to make and keep records in accordance with the Fair Work Regulations 2009 (Cth).

Judge Riethmuller remarked on the real and practical importance of payslips in the scheme of industrial law in his decision.

The Penalties

The employee was underpaid $26,882.73 in the 3 month period of his employment. Only after protracted dealings with the FWO, did the Respondents pay the employee this underpayment and concede liability.

In making a decision as to penalty, Judge Riethmuller considered a number of relevant factors including; the nature and extent of the conduct, the fact that Mr Pulis had sought specific advice from the Fair Work Info Line (and ignored it) and also the Respondents lack of credible expression of regret.

In finding that the 'conduct of the respondents in this case was an outrageous exploitation of a young person', the Court imposed a penalty of $100,000 on Pulis Plumbing in respect of the contraventions, and a penalty of $21,500 on Mr Pulis.

Importantly, in the absence of the Respondents being able to produce timesheets, the FWO relied upon the employee's records of the hours worked.

Judge Riethmuller issued the following caution with respect to the new changes to the Fair Work Act as to the reverse onus of proof (at 19):

'More recently, the FW Act has been amended to ensure that an employer who does not keep records required by the Act in ss.535 and 536, then the employer has the burden of disproving the allegations about those matters: see s.557C.In short, in future if the employer fails to keep time sheets and provide payslips the employer has the burden of disproving an employee's claim about hours worked and payments made.'

What Employers Should Do

Ultimately, this case is an important reminder to employers to ensure that they:

  1. Inform themselves of their workplace obligations including compliance with the terms of any enterprise agreements and/or awards;
  2. Keep proper employee records and payslips;
  3. Conduct human resources audits; and
  4. Seek reliable workplace relations legal advice if unsure of any relevant rights and responsibilities under Australian workplace laws.

For a brief overview of some of the other changes brought about by the Fair Work Amendment (Protecting Vulnerable Workers) Act 2017 (Cth) please view our article titled ' New reforms to the Fair Work Act' published on 11 January 2018.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

Similar Articles
Relevancy Powered by MondaqAI
Some comments from our readers…
“The articles are extremely timely and highly applicable”
“I often find critical information not available elsewhere”
“As in-house counsel, Mondaq’s service is of great value”

Related Topics
Similar Articles
Relevancy Powered by MondaqAI
Related Articles
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
Email Address
Company Name
Confirm Password
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Media & IT
 Real Estate
 Wealth Mgt
Asia Pacific
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
United States
Worldwide Updates
Registration (you must scroll down to set your data preferences)

Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including your content preferences, for three primary purposes (full details of Mondaq’s use of your personal data can be found in our Privacy and Cookies Notice):

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting to show content ("Content") relevant to your interests.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, news alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our content providers ("Contributors") who contribute Content for free for your use.

Mondaq hopes that our registered users will support us in maintaining our free to view business model by consenting to our use of your personal data as described below.

Mondaq has a "free to view" business model. Our services are paid for by Contributors in exchange for Mondaq providing them with access to information about who accesses their content. Once personal data is transferred to our Contributors they become a data controller of this personal data. They use it to measure the response that their articles are receiving, as a form of market research. They may also use it to provide Mondaq users with information about their products and services.

Details of each Contributor to which your personal data will be transferred is clearly stated within the Content that you access. For full details of how this Contributor will use your personal data, you should review the Contributor’s own Privacy Notice.

Please indicate your preference below:

Yes, I am happy to support Mondaq in maintaining its free to view business model by agreeing to allow Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors whose Content I access
No, I do not want Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors

Also please let us know whether you are happy to receive communications promoting products and services offered by Mondaq:

Yes, I am happy to received promotional communications from Mondaq
No, please do not send me promotional communications from Mondaq
Terms & Conditions (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd (Mondaq). Mondaq grants you a non-exclusive, revocable licence to access the Website and associated services, such as the Mondaq News Alerts (Services), subject to and in consideration of your compliance with the following terms and conditions of use (Terms). Your use of the Website and/or Services constitutes your agreement to the Terms. Mondaq may terminate your use of the Website and Services if you are in breach of these Terms or if Mondaq decides to terminate the licence granted hereunder for any reason whatsoever.

Use of

To Use you must be: eighteen (18) years old or over; legally capable of entering into binding contracts; and not in any way prohibited by the applicable law to enter into these Terms in the jurisdiction which you are currently located.

You may use the Website as an unregistered user, however, you are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the Content or to receive the Services.

You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these Terms or with the prior written consent of Mondaq. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information from the Content. Nor shall you extract information about users or Contributors in order to offer them any services or products.

In your use of the Website and/or Services you shall: comply with all applicable laws, regulations, directives and legislations which apply to your Use of the Website and/or Services in whatever country you are physically located including without limitation any and all consumer law, export control laws and regulations; provide to us true, correct and accurate information and promptly inform us in the event that any information that you have provided to us changes or becomes inaccurate; notify Mondaq immediately of any circumstances where you have reason to believe that any Intellectual Property Rights or any other rights of any third party may have been infringed; co-operate with reasonable security or other checks or requests for information made by Mondaq from time to time; and at all times be fully liable for the breach of any of these Terms by a third party using your login details to access the Website and/or Services

however, you shall not: do anything likely to impair, interfere with or damage or cause harm or distress to any persons, or the network; do anything that will infringe any Intellectual Property Rights or other rights of Mondaq or any third party; or use the Website, Services and/or Content otherwise than in accordance with these Terms; use any trade marks or service marks of Mondaq or the Contributors, or do anything which may be seen to take unfair advantage of the reputation and goodwill of Mondaq or the Contributors, or the Website, Services and/or Content.

Mondaq reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to take any action that it deems necessary and appropriate in the event it considers that there is a breach or threatened breach of the Terms.

Mondaq’s Rights and Obligations

Unless otherwise expressly set out to the contrary, nothing in these Terms shall serve to transfer from Mondaq to you, any Intellectual Property Rights owned by and/or licensed to Mondaq and all rights, title and interest in and to such Intellectual Property Rights will remain exclusively with Mondaq and/or its licensors.

Mondaq shall use its reasonable endeavours to make the Website and Services available to you at all times, but we cannot guarantee an uninterrupted and fault free service.

Mondaq reserves the right to make changes to the services and/or the Website or part thereof, from time to time, and we may add, remove, modify and/or vary any elements of features and functionalities of the Website or the services.

Mondaq also reserves the right from time to time to monitor your Use of the Website and/or services.


The Content is general information only. It is not intended to constitute legal advice or seek to be the complete and comprehensive statement of the law, nor is it intended to address your specific requirements or provide advice on which reliance should be placed. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the Content for any purpose. All Content provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers hereby exclude and disclaim all representations, warranties or guarantees with regard to the Content, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. To the maximum extent permitted by law, Mondaq expressly excludes all representations, warranties, obligations, and liabilities arising out of or in connection with all Content. In no event shall Mondaq and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use of the Content or performance of Mondaq’s Services.


Mondaq may alter or amend these Terms by amending them on the Website. By continuing to Use the Services and/or the Website after such amendment, you will be deemed to have accepted any amendment to these Terms.

These Terms shall be governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of England and Wales and you irrevocably submit to the exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of England and Wales to settle any dispute which may arise out of or in connection with these Terms. If you live outside the United Kingdom, English law shall apply only to the extent that English law shall not deprive you of any legal protection accorded in accordance with the law of the place where you are habitually resident ("Local Law"). In the event English law deprives you of any legal protection which is accorded to you under Local Law, then these terms shall be governed by Local Law and any dispute or claim arising out of or in connection with these Terms shall be subject to the non-exclusive jurisdiction of the courts where you are habitually resident.

You may print and keep a copy of these Terms, which form the entire agreement between you and Mondaq and supersede any other communications or advertising in respect of the Service and/or the Website.

No delay in exercising or non-exercise by you and/or Mondaq of any of its rights under or in connection with these Terms shall operate as a waiver or release of each of your or Mondaq’s right. Rather, any such waiver or release must be specifically granted in writing signed by the party granting it.

If any part of these Terms is held unenforceable, that part shall be enforced to the maximum extent permissible so as to give effect to the intent of the parties, and the Terms shall continue in full force and effect.

Mondaq shall not incur any liability to you on account of any loss or damage resulting from any delay or failure to perform all or any part of these Terms if such delay or failure is caused, in whole or in part, by events, occurrences, or causes beyond the control of Mondaq. Such events, occurrences or causes will include, without limitation, acts of God, strikes, lockouts, server and network failure, riots, acts of war, earthquakes, fire and explosions.

By clicking Register you state you have read and agree to our Terms and Conditions